Find Your Target Audience Online: A Step-by-Step Guide

To grow your business, it’s essential to engage with prospective customers in a meaningful way — provided you can find them and capture their attention.

In the early years of the commercial Internet, B2B prospects didn’t have a lot of places to hide. Corporate websites and early Facebook affinity groups complemented email as core avenues for marketing outreach and customer cultivation.

Now, the B2B online landscape is highly fractured, business purchasing habits are increasingly difficult to predict, sales cycles are longer, and there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all B2B lead-gen strategy.

As Forbes noted recently, “Businesses must operate in an omnichannel, always-on, fluid way to ensure all communications and touchpoints are captured — from chatbots to social media to email.”

Who are the real decision makers and purchasing influencers? Where do they spend time online? What kind of content will resonate with them? And how do you cut through all the noise surrounding them?

Answering such questions begins with a well-organized hunt for the quantitative and qualitative factors that define the business behaviors of the customers you hope to reach. First, you’ll want to figure out how to uncover audience needs and deliver value with your content. When developed, packaged, and targeted the right way, good content that precisely targets your audience’s problems, challenges, and aspirations can generate leads for your brand.

Next, you’ll want to focus on defining your target audience. This means putting parameters around your audience and researching to discover not just what they need but, more precisely, what an Ideal Customer Profile looks like.

All of which brings you to the third phase of the hunt for your target audience online: studying the digital habitats of prospective buyers and choosing the most effective ways to cultivate them as sales prospects.

3 ways to find your target audience online

Understanding your target audience’s content and knowledge needs, pain points, core values, and operating characteristics are vital to influencing their purchasing decisions. You need to get inside their heads, as the saying goes. However, increasingly this means analyzing, observing, and interacting with the public-facing digital spaces where they are most likely to be present.

These three approaches will help you crack that challenge.

1. Pay close attention to the stories your target audience shares on social media.

Companies on social media today (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube) are generally laser-focused on their own online brand-building, generating awareness, and promoting their solutions to attract buyers and influencers who will augment their reach.

For B2B marketers seeking to understand what preoccupies their target audience, that’s good news for two reasons. First, you have a ringside seat to the reams of content that companies share, offering a window into how they triage their own engagement efforts through ads, consumer-specific messaging, and the like. And second, as Gartner reports, 40% of B2B buyers use social media to help inform their purchasing decisions, so you know you’re in the right place.

Mini case study: GE Healthcare

Suppose you are targeting GE Healthcare as a potential customer. GE Healthcare helps clinicians provide patient care through global medical technology, pharmaceutical diagnostics, and digital solutions. To that end, the company deploys roughly 4 million imaging, mobile, diagnostic, and monitoring devices worldwide.

Consider this recent GE Healthcare post on Twitter:

If you approach GE Healthcare as a prospect, posts like this one give you an “in” with respect to the company’s potential needs, market drivers, and possibly even their challenges. If GE Healthcare is already a loyal customer, you glean information that should reinforce your ongoing alignment with their brand.

Be strategic in how you engage with the brand’s social posts, and avoid introducing competing information, counterfactual data, or overshadowing them with high-wattage messaging. Instead, deliver information or commentary that affirms and augments their message content and intentions in a positive way.

Keep an eye out for individual employees who re-share the company’s posts because they may be decision-makers or influencers.

2. Leverage your own marketing channels to attract a target audience.

Content marketing is an essential strategy for attracting, acquiring, and retaining customers. The content you develop for your company’s website and social channels says a lot about your brand — what you stand for and the solutions you offer.
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It’s important to be disciplined in your content planning, however, and stick to topics that align with the informational needs of your target audience. As entrepreneur and marketing guru Seth Godin said, “Everyone is not your customer.”

A strategically planned inbound marketing strategy should attract an audience of prospective buyers, nurture them through their sales journey, and, ultimately, convert them into loyal customers.

Mini case study: Staples Worklife

Staples’ Worklife blog is a good example of how a brand can use content to attract and engage its target audience — small and mid-size business owners, in the case of Staples. Staples’ content aligns closely with topics likely to be top-of-mind for business owners in the era of the Great Resignation, with topics ranging from providing work-life balance for employees to managing a remote team.

Staples’ digital content strategy focuses on timely issues to attract and engage its target audience of business owners and managers likely to be involved in office supply purchase decisions. Once that audience is engaging with its content, both on its site and through its social channels, Staples converts its audience into customers by offering exclusive purchasing programs that readers can sign up for.

3. Tap into the professional associations your target audience belongs to.

“It’s better to reach fewer people if they are the right people,” says Thomas DeRosa of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management.

Professional associations to which your target audience belongs represent a goldmine of insight and information. You’ll quickly discover a wealth of specific knowledge and get to see the conversations taking place between industry thought leaders and influencers.

Even better, when you align your brand with an association, you enhance your credibility and build trust, two essential ingredients in today’s B2B sales cycle. As part of their DNA, association members are constantly seeking information, resources, and access to tools and solutions that serve their professional needs.

And while your association marketing investment may yield access to a smaller niche, but a deeper reach because members’ interests may be closely aligned with the solutions your offer. This niche-based approach reduces waste that is an intrinsic part mass advertising and paid search campaigns.

When you identify an association your ideal customers belong to, take a close look at their website to see if they have a Resource Library and, if so, what types of resources and topics seem to be resonating most among their members. This is an efficient and cost-effective way to find your target audience and generate leads.

Mini case study: Epiq

Epiq provides business and legal services to corporate counsel. The company recognizes that many prospective buyers are members of the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC). As such, Epiq has strategically aligned its brand with the association by offering its branded content in the ACC’s Resource Library.

Epiq’s downloadable white papers, guides, and reports offer the kinds of information and solutions that its target customers need. Further, by aligning its brand with the ACC, Epiq is building awareness, credibility, and trust in an online space frequented by prospective buyers that meet its Ideal Customer Profile.

Enhance your target-audience toolkit

Finding your target audience online and laying the foundation for a productive sales relationship depends on a combination of strategic savvy and access to the right tools. This begins with figuring out how to define your target audience and uncover their needs and deliver value with your content.

Once you’ve done that, one of the most potent tools at your disposal is an association-driven lead generation program. At Lead Marvels, we partner with professional associations to build Resource Libraries that can feature your brand’s thought leadership content and resources.

For insight into how to achieve real-world results working with associations, check out our case study to learn how Lead Marvels helped Great Legal Marketing increase its lead volume through an association-driven lead gen campaign. Or, request a demo to learn more about how our solutions can fill your pipeline with a steady stream of intent-based leads.

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